September 04, 2014
Lack of trust in the health care industry: A branding crisis - While the pundits would have you believe that our biggest health care crisis is that millions of people are uninsured, far greater numbers are caught up in a basic lack of trust in conventional health care. That's the subject of this HND piece.
It may surprise you to discover that approximately 38 percent of adults and 12 percent of children are using some form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Briefly, this designation would include everything outside the spectrum of typical allopathic medicine—the type that's generally covered by health insurance.
We discuss the reasons for this, and then hear from a branding expert who discusses what the conventional health care industry needs to do, to get back into the good graces of the public. Read the complete article.
August 27, 2014
Many questions can be raised...Why are all the big disease trade associations against e-cigarettes? At best, they are concerned over tenth-order effects, and seem to care little for actual harm reduction. Why do they continue to advocate a high-carb low fat diet, despite mounds of evidence that this stance has single-handedly caused the obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemic?
Why do they insist on pursuing a low-salt diet when there is NO evidence that this is healthy, and plenty of studies showing that it promotes a variety of diseases?
Rack your brain all you want, but all roads lead to only one conclusion: The powers that be want us sick, poor, and dependent on them. And, in the case of banning e-cigs, want that cig tax revenue.
Where is a public health policy, when you really need one?
August 25, 2014
Dr. Gilbert Ross is the medical and executive director of The American Council on Science and Health. This piece appeared in the NY Post.
As we near the start of flu season, beware: Many of the city’s top hospitals pose a serious hazard to your health, because many of their nurses and other care personnel aren’t vaccinated — and don’t have to be.
To protect both workers and patients, at least 90 percent of health-care personnel should be vaccinated. At Mount Sinai, it’s just 58 percent; at Maimonides Medical Center, 55 percent; at New York Hospital-Queens, 60 percent. Overall, at the 31 hospitals of the city Health and Hospitals Corp. the rate is just 82 percent — well below the “herd immunity” that’s needed to prevent a serious flu epidemic.
Hospital-worker vaccinations are vital, because patients’ own immune systems are so often impaired by the illnesses that landed them in the hospital. It’s outrageous for the city’s health-care system to so needlessly put the sick and vulnerable at further risk.
Seasonal influenza is highly communicable and potentially lethal. Vaccinating health-care personnel against it to protect both patients and workers should be a no-brainer. But the Health and Hospitals Corp., or HHC, doesn’t require it — despite the clear benefit to all parties, versus the immeasurably small risk. Health workers in direct contact with patients are the chief source of infectious outbreaks in health-care facilities. Why won’t HHC require vaccination?
Two years ago, the public-health nonprofit where I work, The American Council on Science and Health, sent HHC a petition signed by 35 nationally renowned experts in infectious disease, demanding it implement a mandatory vaccination policy.
We got nowhere.
We then appealed to the state Department of Health, which said it had such a policy under consideration. But, sigh, DOH caved to union resistance, and merely adopted an optional “vaccinate or mask” policy. The Centers for Disease Control report that there is no evidence that “mask use by either infectious patients or health-care personnel prevents influenza transmission.” In other words, the Department of Health is promoting a flu-prevention policy that doesn’t prevent the spread of flu.
Influenza is highly contagious; each year it infects about 20 percent of Americans, leading to 200,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 to 50,000 deaths. And some of those deaths are preventable — people who caught the flu while hospitalized for something else. Hospital patients are among the most vulnerable to the severe (even lethal) complications of influenza. Widespread immunization campaigns can reduce this frightful toll. Seasonal flu vaccines can reduce morbidity by 60 to 90 percent; they’re easily the most effective method to prevent transmission of the virus.
The Infectious Disease Society of America, The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, The American Academy of Pediatrics and other major medical groups all endorse mandatory vaccination of health-care personnel.
After all, it does three key things:
- Prevents the virus from spreading to patients, including those with weakened immune systems.
- Promotes “herd immunity,” making it less likely that the virus can spread to those who can’t be vaccinated or for whom the vaccine doesn’t “take.”Ensures that the health-care workforce remains functional even in the event of a massive flu outbreak.
In short, this is a core safety practice for public health. It’s obscene that HHC refuses to mandate annual flu vaccination as a condition of initial and continued employment and/or professional privileges. (The only permitted exemptions should be for documented medical conditions.)
Yet the unions for nurses and other hospital workers resist, citing reasons from “freedom of choice” to religious objections to fear of side-effects.
- No religion gives you the right to put the sick at added risk of disease.
- Freedom of choice means the freedom to find other work if you won’t be vaccinated to protect yourself and others — not the freedom to threaten others’ health.
- If you can’t see that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the tiny risk of side-effects, you don’t belong working in a hospital.
Union opposition is potent.
It took vaccine expert (and ACSH trustee) Dr. Paul Offit and his team a full six years to finally implement the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s “Get vaccinated or get out” policy, ultimately firing only nine out of 9,300 CHOP employees.
But it can be done, and must be done.
Physicians and other health-care providers are bound by three key ethical duties: “To do good or to do no harm,” “To put patient interests first” and “To protect the vulnerable.” To avoid or ignore these clear duties is unprofessional and worse, is detrimental to public health. Yes, a mandatory-vaccination is coercive. So what? Voluntary approaches don’t work, and protecting the public health justifies such coercion. Every hospital should tell its workers: “You may choose not to be vaccinated — or to work in this hospital with sick patients. Not both.”
Stop the assault on salt - This HND piece marks the second time in six months that I have gone after the low-salters. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that low salt diets not only do not promote health, but are actually bad for people, these blockheads continue on—or at least try to.
The latest assault comes in the form of one of three articles recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The first two continue piling on the evidence that moderate salt consumption is good for you, but the low-salters have fixated on the third one (Mozaffarian et al.).
Cutting to the chase, lead author Dariush Mozaffarian and his nine collaborators spent plenty of Bill and Melinda Gates' money to run an epidemiological study on various health effects of dietary sodium. Hold onto your hats for the conclusion:
In this modeling study, 1.65 million deaths from cardiovascular causes that occurred in 2010 were attributed to sodium consumption above a reference level of 2.0 g per day.
Bear in mind that less than one percent of people on earth consume such low levels of sodium per day. Thus, these brilliant researchers discovered that in a cohort that comprises 99% of the human race, there will be some deaths from cardiovascular causes. I ask you to take a short break to appreciate how incandescently stupid this is. Have you ever heard of an epi study in which the cohort is 99% of the human race? What possible conclusions can be drawn?
At the very least, epi studies must attempt to remove confounding factors, but those will clearly be in abundance if everyone is in the study, right? For an illustration, consider the most famous epi work of all time—Richard Doll's demonstration that smoking causes lung cancer. Doll identified a particular group, and then compared it with non-smokers, looking at the endpoint of lung cancer.
In Mozaffarian et al, by making his cohort 99% of humans, he does not have a "non" group, that can be characterized in any rational manner. One can hardly imagine a more absurd epi study than this one.
But, it gets worse. Not only were these worthless results published in a highly prestigious journal, but they were touted by the president of the American Heart Association, and king of the low-salters, Elliott Antman, MD. And Dariush Mozaffarian was named dean of the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, coming from Harvard University, where he served as associate professor and co-director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and an associate professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The health of Americans has been plagued with such meme-driven nonsense, and rejection of good science for decades. Likewise, the very promoters of this drivel are rewarded. And you wonder why there are major problems with our health care system? Read the complete article.
August 22, 2014
Depression, chemicals, and drugs - The death of Robin Williams jump-started this HND piece, but we don't cover his tragic suicide. Rather, we look at the nature of depression, and the role of SSRI drugs. Also included is a takedown of the sorry "Biochemical imbalance" theory of depression—a theory now being disavowed by psychiatry itself. Read the complete article.
A look at gene therapy - This HND piece examines some exciting developments in the often-touted, but only recently successful field of gene therapy. Ever since the discovery of DNA's double helical structure, people were talking about the possibilities, and now we have some real clinical trials that appear quite promising.
Our guide to the world of gene therapy is Jeff Galvin of American Gene Technologies International Inc., one of the companies that is close to some significant breakthroughs, including treatments for liver and prostate cancer. Other disease specific treatments are described, as well. Read the complete article.
August 03, 2014
The merry old land of Oz - In this HND piece, we examine the strange career of one Mehmet Oz, who has gone from respected physician...to snake oil salesman. We cite some of his recent follies, and frankly, we could have been much more harsh. Greed seems to be the only motivation that can explain this kind of trashing of one's own reputation. Read the complete article.